From the Coalition Column of the January 2010 issue of Perspectives on History

News Briefs, January 2010

Lee White, January 2010

Ferriero Sworn in as Archivist of the United States

On November 13, 2009, David S. Ferriero, the former Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries, was sworn in as the 10th Archivist of the United States at a ceremony at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

In one of his first major acts after assuming the position, Ferriero announced the creation of the NARA Holdings Protection Program and the appointment of a team to staff the initiative. Eric Peterson was appointed as the team leader. Most recently, Peterson was the special security officer for the Naval Information Operations Command in Suitland, Maryland, where he was responsible for loss prevention and classified programs. Peterson will lead a seven-member team composed of archives specialists, loss prevention specialists, and a trainer.

Over the past few years, NARA has been embarrassed by highly publicized incidents of theft from its holdings. The most famous was the theft of documents from the National Archives by President Clinton’s former national security advisor, Samuel R. (Sandy) Berger. On April 1, 2005, Berger pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents.

In March 2009, NARA discovered that an external hard drive containing copies of data from the Clinton Administration’s Executive Office of the President was missing from a NARA processing room. Despite the posting of a $50,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the hard drive, it remains missing.

The NARA Holdings Protection Program will serve as a nationwide resource developing and administering policies to enhance holdings protection of original records, regardless of their format, to reduce the loss of and aid in the recovery of holdings while ensuring ready access for research by all stakeholders. The team will work with individual offices within the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the regional archives and records centers, and the 13 Presidential libraries.

Amendment to Eliminate Political Science Program at NSF is Defeated

On November 5, 2009, the Senate passed the fiscal 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill (H.R. 2847). By a vote of 36-62, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would have eliminated funding for the political science program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The political science program at NSF is budgeted at $9 million.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations subcommittee, stated during floor debate that she “vigorously and unabashedly” opposed the Coburn amendment. She went on to say, “This amendment is an attack on science. It is an attack on academia.”

The National Coalition for History had sent a letter to all U.S. Senators in opposition to the Coburn amendment.

Senator Byrd Becomes Longest-Serving Member of Congress

On November 18, 2009, Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) became the longest-serving member of Congress, having served in the House of Representatives (1953–1959) and the Senate (1959–present) for a total of 56 years, 10 months, and 16 days. He broke the record previously set by Carl T. Hayden (1912–1969). On June 12, 2006, Senator Byrd became the longest-serving senator in U.S. history.

Senator Byrd is considered the “father” of the Teaching American History Grants program at the U.S. Department of Education. Since its inception in fiscal year 2001, nearly $1 billion in federal dollars have been spent to raise student achievement by improving teachers’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of American history.

NHPRC Recommends $2.9 Million in Grants for Documentary Editing and Archival Projects

At its meeting on November 20, 2009, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, recommended to the Archivist of the United States 32 grants totaling $2.9 million for projects in 20 states and the District of Columbia. These recommendations include grants for digitizing historical records, electronic records preservation, and historical documentary editions. View the full list of recommended grants at www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2010/nr10-28.html.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. He can be reached at lwhite@nationalhistorycoalition.org.